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The Power of a Good Story

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

This week, I’m set to speak at Montana’s Women Stepping Forward for Agriculture conference, and my topic is simple: storytelling.

From the bedtime stories read to us as a kid to the outrageous and borderline made up stories your least favorite cousin boasts, storytelling is familiar to us all. Storytelling is alive in all industries, but it’s lacking in some. 

Personally, I believe agriculture falls into this “lacking” group, but I’m here to share, it doesn’t have to be, and there’re people out there doing their part to make agriculture one of the most talked about industries. 

Currently, a lot of the storytelling about ag is what I would not consider a “good” story, and this can be broken down into two parts: science and fiction.

On the science side of agriculture’s story, we’ve got these incredibly long, science-heavy research papers the average consumer won’t pick up and read while on a plane from Montana to Louisiana. I understand, we need these “stories” because without science and the documentation about it, there would be no agriculture. 

And I know there’re some people out there who enjoy reading 100-page research papers about food production; however, generally speaking, most people look at a 100-page document over agronomy and it’s like picking up a dictionary in a different language.

On the fiction side of agriculture’s story, we have false documents claiming every veggie in the supermarket is a genetically modified organism, gassy cattle are destroying the environment and farmers and ranchers just want to watch the world burn. And the worst part? These fiction writers have said to heck with research, we’re just going to say what we want and trust people believe us because the average consumer won’t take the time to read a 100-page research document including words they’ve never even heard of,  but they will take five minutes to read a Facebook post accompanied by a photo of some cute baby chicks.

In other words, we’ve got a few problems when it comes to telling agriculture’s story. But, like I said, we can fix these problems and there’s already a small army of agriculturists out there doing it.

Take, for example, Kiah Twisselman Burchett, or “Coach Kiah,” as she’s better known online. Kiah is a rancher who lost over 100 pounds while keeping beef in her diet. 

She promotes agriculture to her 32,000-plus Instagram followers every day. She is a motivational speaker to large crowds – she was even on Good Morning America and the Kelly Clarkson Show. All of these avenues have allowed her to tell her story and how agriculture fits into it to an audience containing more than just agriculturists.

Sure, you can laugh about some of her funnier posts you may think are goofy but at the end of the day, Kiah is telling ag’s story in one way or another and people are actually listening. I hate to break it to hard-science guys out there, but she’s doing a better job of getting the word out about ag to consumers than they are, and we need people like her to translate these science guys’ findings to the public.

It’s content like Kiah’s consumers want to hear. When she posts about ag, she keeps it short, sweet and to the point. 

She gets someone’s attention; and best of all, she does it with confidence – even people thousands of miles away can see her confidence from her Instagram posts. And let me tell you, confidence is half the battle. Kiah tells the truth about agriculture.

To the hard-science people who may be offended by this column, I’m sorry for the tough love. I’m not saying you or your jobs are not important. We need you. Without you, people like Kiah and myself wouldn’t have any stories to tell. All I’m saying is, you need to realize you need us.

To the fiction writers, you can keep spinning your web of lies, but the cream always rises to the top and you are not the cream; you are the grounds that somehow slipped through the filter and into my mug which are now at the bottom of the coffee – bitter and unwanted.

To the agriculturists not dedicating their life to academic or scientific research, we know, no matter how brilliant and revolutionary it may be, consumers don’t want to read some long, boring document about ag. We know, no matter how captivating it may be, we don’t want consumers to believe the fiction anti-agriculturalists write about us and our industry on the daily. 

But we also know, no matter how silly it may seem to some, the only people left to tell agriculture’s story is us. So, get to writing, talking, posting, singing, taking pictures or whatever it is you can do to tell agriculture’s story, I encourage you to do it. The power of agriculture’s story all falls on you.

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